Editorials 4.10.2016 07:33 am

Semenya got it wrong with fees

FILE PICTURE: Caster Semenya celebrates another 800m title holding up the South African flag during the afternoon session on day 5 of the CAA 20th African Senior Championships at Kings Park Athletic stadium on June 26, 2016 in Durban. Picture: Gallo Images

FILE PICTURE: Caster Semenya celebrates another 800m title holding up the South African flag during the afternoon session on day 5 of the CAA 20th African Senior Championships at Kings Park Athletic stadium on June 26, 2016 in Durban. Picture: Gallo Images

It is something of a mystery why Semenya has chosen to enter this debate taking the stance she has.

Unless she has been quoted completely out of context, you have to believe that star middle distance athlete Caster Semenya has somehow lost the plot on the #FeesMustFall protests and in the process seriously alienated her most vociferous supporters, the students.

It is her right under the constitution – a right strengthened by being a university student herself – to voice her feelings on the student protests, which have all but wrenched the country apart.

And you can validly argue that the seemingly mindless violence and arson, which has been caught up like so much detritus in the riptide of emotions typifying the protests, is something that Semenya, like many South Africans, finds abhorrent and made her cross the moral line in the sand the campaign against rising costs of tertiary education originally drew.

But for the Rio Olympic 800-metre gold medallist to say that she “wouldn’t go out there to jeopardise my schoolwork and waste my time toyi-toying because I cannot afford school” is a naive understatement of the seriousness of the situation.

There is, in essence nothing intrinsically wrong with poor students expecting and asking for state assistance in gaining a tertiary qualification. The government’s dithering intransigence on the issue has only helped inflame matters.

It is also something of a mystery why Semenya has chosen to enter this debate taking the stance she has. The world-class athlete has already earned her entry to a university from a humble upbringing in a village in Limpopo, using her talent on the track as a key to opening the doors of academia.

Semenya will doubtless be applauded by the vocal anti-protest lobby and while it is right that vandalism must be paid for by the perpetrators, in the long-term it is wiser voices than hers which will surely count.

 

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